Sunday, January 30, 2005

Esglesia Evangelica de Barcelona

On Saturday, I slept in a little and then did some laundry. That was interesting. We have a washing machine, but no drier, so that means in order to dry stuff, I have to air dry them. The washing machine isn’t as self explanatory as one would think, but I think I set it on an alright (safe) setting for my socks and underwear. I put in the clothes, added detergent (which was in power for me), and started the washer. While they were washing, I went to this hardware store next to SuperSol and got some string and clothespins. When the clothes were finished, I had to ring them out one by one which took a long time. This washing machine is weird...spin cycle anyone?! Anyway, then I hung my stuff up across the room in two places. It looked really funny. And now that I think of it, I should have taken a picture. Oh well, it will happen again another time. Anyway, I left them up during the day while I went out with Mike and Scott L. to El Corte Inglés. My main agenda was to go and see where this church that I found was located, but Mike and Scott needed to run some errands too in the same area, so we all went out. Mike’s power cord for his laptop stopped working and he was going to see if he could find another one. Scott was looking for Febreze. Scott found what he was looking for, but Mike was diverted to another store. We went to see where that store was located, but with no luck. By then it was starting to get dark, so we went by and found out where the church was. We found it pretty easily and read on a paper outside that the service is at 11.

Then we went back to the apartment for some food and down time before we were supposed to head over the girl’s place for a get together with the Clemson and possibly Monterrey students. It was pretty fun. Clemson had some trouble finding the place, but they got there. Monterrey didn’t show, but I don’t think it was communicated very well to them. Perhaps another time.

Today, I woke up early to get ready for church. Mike was going to come with me and we met up downstairs at 10 to start the trek to the church. We got there around 10:30 and had some time before the service. One of the members started talking to us in Catalan/Spanish and we didn’t really understand what he was saying. It wasn’t until we started walking down the street looking for something to munch on, that we realized that the guy was trying to tell us that it was warm inside the sanctuary and that we could hang out there until 11. We got a kick at how stupid we must have seemed to him, and how it took a while for everything to sink in as to what he had said. We remembered what he had said and what we had said and we basically kept saying “si...a las” because we thought at the time he was telling us what time the service started. But he had that look on his face like that wasn’t what he was trying to communicate to us. He even said “,” but we were flustered. It was an experience. And that was just the beginning.

When we went back closer to 11, some little old lady came up to us and started talking to us. She was asking us questions and stuff and I was able to understand what she was saying a little bit better. But we had a few parts like what we had experienced with the man too. I now have a better respect for foreigners in the U.S. I would always get a kick out of listening to people struggle with communicating, but it’s really hard and the little amount of the language you know doesn’t really help sometimes and you look stupid...or at least feel that way.

Mike made a comment to me that he felt like my shadow because the people would automatically come up to me and talk to me (because of how I look, hehe). More of a reason to learn the language.

The lady introduced us to the pastor, who spoke English...which was quite a relief. He asked us the normal questions like where were we from, what are we doing in Barcelona and for how long and if we knew Spanish. We told him that we knew very little Spanish and he was like “well, this will be an experience.” And that it was.

The bulletins, hymnals, and Bible were all in Catalan. I now got a full blast taste of how different Catalan is from Spanish. I mean, I’ve been able to tell from stores and stuff, but seeing all this stuff written’s really different. I had brought my Bible (in English) and I tried to decipher the Catalan, but it was difficult. It’s pretty much a mix of Spanish and French. Singing the hymns was interesting. I listened closely to the man singing behind us to try and hear the pronounciations of the Catalan words, because it’s nothing really like Spanish. Like in some places ‘e’ s are pronounced like a hard ‘a.’ And the word ‘que’ sounded like ‘kah’ and not ‘keh.’ Very different. The sermon however was in Spanish. It was really cool how fast I could recognize it was Spanish and not Catalan. It would have been even better if I could understand everything that he was saying. I kept trying to translate what I was hearing into English and that wasn’t really working because by the time I recognized something, translated it, and tried to fit it into everything else, he had alread moved on. So I just sat there and tried to just let it come to me. I understood only a little bit of what he said, but I got the jist of the sermon.

Afterward, little ladies kept coming up to us and tried to talk to us. We struggled, but it was a little easier after our brains had been immersed in another language for so long. I think they were amazed to see people our age in there, because we were the only ones. We found the pastor and talked to him a little bit afterward and he gave me a brochure with contact information and said that he lives in the building and that if we need anything, we are always welcome. That’s a good thing, and the church is very close to the school, so that’s cool. He said that he is going to be in Madrid from Wednesday until Sunday, so he wasn’t going to be there next week. He didn’t say who was going to preach, but if I go back to this church next week (there are others that I found that I might want to check out that are closer to the apartment) I will be without a “safety net” of someone that speaks English. Oh well... It was quite a morning.

The afternoon was one of relaxation and napping. I took a nap and woke up confused because it was dark outside. After a while some of the guys showed up at my room and we watched Star Wars: Episode I. That, of course, was fun. Then we just hung out for a little bit longer and now I’m going to bed.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Bilingual Presentations

The days are starting to go by a little quicker now that it’s been get up, go to school, come back, eat, go to bed. My photography project was due today. We finished up the bulk of it yesterday, and all that needed to be done today was to get our little booklets bound. There’s a paper place about 2 blocks from the school, and my group was able to get each of our booklets bound for only 0.60 Euros each. Not too bad at all.

I had Spanish in the morning and then we had about 2 hours before the presentations were going to take place. So the place was packed. A&M, Clemson, and Monterrey all trying to get their work displayed on the walls around the building. When 2:30 came around, the presentations and critiquing began. I think 4 hours passed and we had only gone through a few projects from each university. Ours wasn’t one of them. It had already been a long day and we were told that we would present on Monday during a part of our studio class. The presentations were short. The critiquing took the longest. There were I think 4 different profs there to critique. It was quite interesting. Some of the people from Monterrey either couldn’t speak English, or just knew Spanish better, so a lot of the presentations became bilingual or just Spanish since all of the profs were fluent in both languages. Very interesting. I found myself listening to critiques in 100mph Spanish. It was like I was watching Spanish TV. Oh will get better.

So that was my day. I came back to the apartment, cooked dinner, watched some stuff on the computer and went to bed. Some of the guys went out, but sleeping seemed like a better choice for me. I still have yet to see the “night life” of Barcelona... Even though my role will probably just be a spectator, I still wanna see it. Perhaps another day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I totally forgot to write yesterday. Nothing really exciting happened. I had studio, then worked on my project with my group for most of the afternoon. Then I came back, cooked dinner, watched some cartoons on the laptop, and went to bed.

Okay, I take it back. One thing new and interesting happened yesterday. I ate at this place near our school called Food Ball. We pass it at least once a day and it’s always intrigued everyone, but I tried it for lunch yesterday. It’s a ball of food. Weird to look at when passing by, but I took a chance. I ordered the chicken one and went and sat down. Awaiting my stomach was a brown, herb covered sphere. I asked for utensils, but they said you eat it with your hands. So I picked it up and took a bite. Sure enough, there was chicken inside...and rice. It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was pretty tasty. The only downside was that it was about the size of a tennis ball, so it wasn’t the most filling of meals. But it was good. Weird, but good.

Today, we had Spanish for 4 hours starting at 9am, which was oh so fun. We were supposed to have our first day of Seminar class at 1, but it got rescheduled until tomorrow. Spanish was good though. Re-learned some more stuff from high school spanish, but it’s sinking in a lot better now.

Even though we didn’t have class, we all had a lot of work to do on our projects. And it envolved all of us printing from one printer. 13 of us sharing one printer that’s connected to one of two computers that’s available for about 60 students is very difficult. We had a lot of trouble defining what was ours to the other groups. The printer had been purchased by Aggies from the previous semester and we had already chipped in and bought ink for we weren’t going to just let the whole world use it. We were able to set up a wireless printing network so that people with laptops could print to that printer and we wouldn’t have to hog the 2 desktop computers. It was crazy. But after a while, it ended up being just A&M in the room for most of the day because the other schools had class. The cartridge lasted until around 6:30pm...right in the middle of what I was printing (the second half of my project). Someone collected more money and set out to go get another cartridge. I packed up and came back to the apartment because I knew that it was only going to get busier in that room. I stopped at SuperSol and picked up some more pasta sauce, some milk, and more mandarin oranges (I love those things!) and now I’m waiting for the stove to heat up. I’m going to get to class early tomorrow to print out the rest of my stuff. It’s not much, so it’s all good.

As for tonight, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to hit the sack “early,” but we’ll see. My back really hurts, so that’s what’s determining if I go out or not. I want to go out and meet some new people because it’s getting hard to just stay within the A&M group.

Speaking of, I got homesick for the first time today. I mean, I miss home and everyone, but it was the first time that I actually wanted to not be so far away...just for at least a moment. I got an email from my dad and he was asking me some questions about different things. Two of which involve calling Apple and FedEx, and the other is a computer issue. It was just so frusterating that I couldn’t just pick up the phone and make those calls...because if I did, it would cost a lot. And the computer stuff, I just wish that I could have been at home and helped him with it personally. I guess it was just the first time that I realized how FAR away I am...and how long I’m going to be here. I had a dream two nights ago that I was back from studying abroad and when I woke up I was like “oh my gosh, I still have over 3 months left!”

I guess this is where self growth comes in. I mean once I got here, there was the time to get adjusted...and then we kept going out and visiting different areas of the city after class... And now that it’s become “normal,” other feelings that have been suppressed are surfacing. It’s not to the point where “I wanna go home” because 1) I can’t, and 2) what would that really solve? That would only go to show that I can’t make it on my own away from what is familiar...that I don’t have what it takes to survive. That’s not me. I wasn’t raised to be that way. I mean, I was raised to cherish my family and friends, and I do with all of’s just that I have been given this opportunity to grow experience a different way of living. And that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve learned so much already...and it hasn’t even been two weeks yet!

So, I am off to cook and eat and sleep and wake up tomorrow refreshed and anew.

Monday, January 24, 2005

First "Normal Day"

Today was a “normal day,” if there is such a thing for the beginning of my second week here. There were only a few abnormal things that happened. Last night, Amon and David locked themselves out of their room, so Amon crashed in my room and Dave was in Clay and Scott’s room. We still don’t really know how they locked themselves out. I mean, sure the doors lock behind you, but you would think that they would have learned to always have your keys with you by now. Oh well, I think they learned their lesson...the hard way.

I had studio from 9:30 until 12:30. Each group met for a little while with Diego to talk over each of the ideas. I am in a group with Ashley Dias and Jennifer Kersey. When Diego was talking about different ways to present our photography, he mentioned something about creating an installation (a kind of 3D representation using a space...kind of artsy) as one of the ideas. For some reason, I latched onto that idea because it was something that I’ve never done before and I thought it would be cool. I mentioned it to our group, about kind of creating a box that we could display our photos in different layers, etc, so that it looks different depending on how you look at it. Jennifer was like “I really like your idea!” and then she starting expanding on it like crazy. It was great. My photography focussed on grafitti and the urban lifestyle regarding that. Jennifer focussed on sculpture and Ashley on sacred architecture. Ashley created a diagram that showed the relation of each of the different areas and even though some of them seem no not really be connected, they are. We kept piling on ideas and came up with a pretty cool idea. We told Diego about it and it seemed like he liked the idea (we were kind of rushing in our explanation because by the time he got to our group, there were only a few minutes left of class). He added to our overall idea and consequently gave us more work to do than what was already on the table. I mean, it’s fine, but it’s Monday and we only have one more work day before we present to the class. And then the following day we present to the other schools. It’s going to be a busy week...but interesting at the same time.

After that class we had 4 hours of Spanish. During the last 30 minutes to an hour, Antonio took us to La Boqueria, a market, that’s located on Las Ramblas...not too far from our school. It was a neat marketplace. People were selling fruits and vegetables, meat, etc. When I was walking in, something in particular caught my eye. It was candy! And a lot of it. I spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure out what I wanted. I got 100 grams of candy (which isn’t that much at all) and savored each piece as I walked to the Metro to go home. Scott S. and I were the only ones to go back to the apartment...the rest went to a Chinese restaurant. Scott and I went to SuperSol and got some groceries. Again, I spent only like 3.6 Euros for food for a while. I got some type of rice meal that you cook on a skillet, some more noodles (even though I haven’t finished the first bag yet), some more juice, and some bread. I waited a little while before I started cooking because it was still “early” and I knew that if I had eaten right away, I’d just be hungry later. So I cooked and ate, and now I’m just lounging around, going through pictures and stuff.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sagrada Familia, Port Olimpic, Parc de la Ciutadella, Arc de Triomf, and Torre Agbar

I slept in and made some breakfast and then relaxed for a while. I wasn’t sure if we were going to go anywhere as a group, but I didn’t want to just sit waiting to find out, so I ventured off on my own. I went to the Sagrada Familia because I hadn’t seen it up close yet. It was only two Metro stops away, so that wasn’t a bad ride at all. I spent some time walking around it, taking pictures (of course). The thing is massive...and it’s not even finished at all yet. I think it is projected to be completed in 2020. It’s so crazy though. It is a totally different style than anything before it. Gaudi had to have had some crazy drawings and stuff for this church. And it’s really cool because you can see the new construction mixed with the old. There are huge cranes up everywhere and there were a lot of tourists, of course.

After taking about 50 pictures, I got back on the Metro and went forward to the next stop on the Blue Line (the line that the Sagrada Familia was on) and went to see the Hospital de Sant Pau. I got off at that stop, walked a few blocks to the hospital and took some pictures. I didn’t spend much time there...just checking it out.

Once I got all the way back to the apartment, everyone else was up and there was talk of going to Port Olimpic and some other places. So we got ready and then headed out.

We first went to Port Olimpic and walked around the area and the beach. This is the area that is right around the two tallest skyscrapers in Barcelona. It was a beautiful day and it was a nice area to walk around.

Then we went in search of the Parc de la Ciutadella. It took much wandering around, but we found it. It was a really nice park with a huge statue/fountain in it. I’m pretty sure Gaudi designed it too. We walked around the park and passed by this huge concrete statue of a Mammoth, and a dried up canoe area. We kept walking and after a while we wound up at the gates of the zoo. Admission was like 14 Euros, so we decided not to go in. But directly behind us, down this long avenue, we could see the Arc de Triomf, so we headed in that direction. Once we got to it, like 10 minutes later, we took some pictures and then got on the Metro (there is a stop right next to it). We then figured out how to get to “The Penis Tower.” That’s what we’ve dubbed it because...well... Even the some of the locals call it “El Torre Pene” which means the same thing. The actual name is Torre Agbar. It is the third tallest building in Barcelona at the moment. It’s shape is very similar to a building located in London (and the people refer to it the same). It’s design is very different in terms of the actual exterior of the building. It has all of these angled windows and about a meter behind it is the actual building. There is a weird color pattern on the actual building, but it still looks cool.

By that time, it was already cold outside, so we came back to the apartment. Some of the guys went out to eat, the rest of us (myself included) cooked and ate in the apartment. Then I took a nap and around 9 we got together in Mike and Scott’s room and watched the movie Akira. Then I went to bed.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Last night turned out to be really fun. Michael Newman’s place was really nice and had a great view of the city. We hung out in his living room for a while, listening to some Spanish music, eating ham, tangerines, some awesome cheese and sausage, drinking wine, and talking. Then we went up to his roof terrace for a little bit and spent some time doing the same stuff while enjoying the city. It was really nice.

I totally slept in this morning. It felt really nice. We’ve now been here for a whole week. And what a week it has been! I’m not sure what we’re going to do today, but I’d like to go do some more sightseeing around the city. We’ll see what happens...

Well, we did just that. We went to a place called Montjuic. It is where the Olympic Stadium, huge Palace, Barcelona Pavilion, and awesome park are located. We walked around and took pictures. It was great. The Barcelona Pavilion (by Meis van der Rohe) wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. We had to learn about it in class, so I had to see it in person. I did. That was it.

After seeing the awesome sights, Ryan and I went to SuperSol to get some more groceries. For like 3 Euros, I was able to get some noodles, sauce, bag of Mandarin oranges, salt, and shredded cheese. It was awesome! I made some of the pasta for dinner and I think that if I were to calculate how much it cost, it would have come out to like 0.20 Euros. Definately not eating out for a while. This is WAY cheaper. Eating out can end up being 10 Euros easily.

Now I’m just relaxing and I think I might get to bed early today...

Friday, January 21, 2005

Universitat de Barcelona

The guys ended up going and grabbing something to eat and then we trekked over to the girls’ place to watch a movie. We watched Super Troopers. I love that movie...definately quotable.

“Normal day” so far. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here barely a week. It feels much longer. I’ve learned SO much in such a short amount of’s crazy.

Today I had Spanish for like 4 hours. What we’re learning is pretty much what I learned in high school, but it applies a lot better over here, of course (por supuesto). Our Spanish prof is cool. After we spent some time in the classroom, he took us out and showed us the Universitat de Barcelona. The school that I am going to is a branch off of that main campus and it’s only about a 5 minute’s walk from where we are. It is a really nice University. It’s around 500 years old and the architecture is beautiful in the classical style. I really wish that in the states, we didn’t just tear stuff down and build over it. Here, it’s really interesting because there are a lot of old buildings, not always nice looking ones, but what they do is use the shell and change the inside. In the US, we either tear down the old and build new, or just start from scratch. Like here I was wondering where the schools where younger kids go because I didn’t see anything like what I’m used to seeing back home. Here there school could have been an old church or office building, etc. It’s really interesting. Seeing something from the street is very deceiving sometimes...

Tonight we are having a social at Michael Newman’s place. He’s an A&M prof on sabatical and he seems pretty cool. I mean, he’s having all of us over, so that’s definately nice in my book. We’ll see how it turns out...

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Park Güell

Well last night the guys got together in Mike and Scott's room and watched a movie. We watched Falling Down on Mike’s laptop. I had never seen that movie before. It was pretty good. Twisted, but good.

Today was quite a day. We had class at 9:30am. It was a lot of walking around, taking pictures for our photography project. It was cool. I got to see a lot more of the city that I hadn’t seen yet. We ended up at La Rambla de Mar, which was basically the port. It was nice to walk along the boardwalk and look back toward the city. Oh yeah, and I totally take back my initial feelings toward my professor, Diego. He’s really cool, and I’m glad to be learning from him. My Grandpa Peña told me before I left to “learn as much as you can, because nobody can take your education from you.” I intend to do just that. And I am in an incredible area for growth.

After class, I came back to the apartment for a much needed ham sandwich (basically all I eat here...the Spaniards love their ham!). Then all of guys took a trip a few blocks from the apartment to Park Guell, an awesome park designed by Antonio Gaudi that’s located on the side of a large hill.

It was a lot of walking and hiking, but we walked through the park and noticed that it kept going up. We spotted the very top of the hill and climbed to the top. Oh man, it was cool to get a 360 degree view of the city! We took some pictures and then sun was starting to set, so we made our way back down. 2 hours well spent, and definately not the last time I’ll be visiting that park. It is a tourist attraction, but it does have some very nice areas to just sit and be at peace or meditate. Good times.

It’s only 7pm, but I think I’m going to take a much needed nap or something. Who knows, I might just stay awake until it’s time to go to bed. Either way, I’m pretty sure something else is going to go on tonight. We don’t have class until 12:30 tomorrow...oh wait, I have Spanish homework! Haha, looks like some of the evening has just been planned for me...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Spanish and the Mediterranean

Well I didn’t end up going out...well sort of. Some of the guys went to Plaza Cataluna to go drink, etc, but I wasn’t going to go do that. What I did want to do was walk around a little bit on my own and check out the city. So I set out with a map on hand and started down Escorial away from my apartment. I came to a big road and turned left. I thought, I’ll just keep turning left at major roads and then I should be able to find my way back. That’s what happened, but not as easily as planned. Not all of the roads connect through to the next, so that causes problems. I was in familiar territory though. I would pass by something that I remember we had walked by on previous days. The thing was that I didn’t really remember which direction we had turned on certain roads because I was talking and walking and just following the leader. Anyway, I got my bearings, looked at my map, and found the way back to my apartment. I covered a lot of area and I now know more of the surrounding of where I live. It was still a benficial adventure. If only it hadn’t taken almost 2 hours of straight walking! Now I am going to make a sandwich and go to bed. Yeah, I know that isn’t very healthy, but it just seems like I’m always hungry here. They eat at weird times and it’s just different. My body is still saying “what have you done to me?!?”

In the morning I am going to eat some eggs...

And that’s just what I did. I woke up wide awake again around 6:30am. I listened to music for a little bit, and after a while Ryan woke up and he made himself two eggs while I took a shower. Then when I got out, I did the same. The eggs were different. The only eggs we could buy at SuperSol were the brown eggs. The yolk was more orangish than yellow, so that was different. But they were still eggs, and tasted good with some ham.

After that, it was time to relax. It was already a beautiful day, so I opened the window and just sat around for a little bit. Class wasn’t until 12:30, but I wanted to leave a little early and take my time getting there. When we were going to leave, we went to each of the other guys’ rooms and made sure that they were at least up and moving around since they had been out late last night. Clay ended up coming with Ryan and me and we headed off to the Metro.

We stopped at a stop that is one after the one that we normally stop at because it is a little closer to the school. The thing is, that when we got out from underground, we had no idea where we were. I had learned one thing from a previous experience the day before and that the school is not in the direction of the mountains. So we walked around and found a street and sure enough, it headed toward the mountains. So we turned around and walked in the opposite direction. After much winding and saying “that looks familiar...” we found the street that would eventually take us to the school. Another adventure.

Today we had Spanish class. It was fun. Our prof is really nice and we covered some important stuff. My vocabulary grew some, and I learned a lot. Then we, as a class, went out and walked around the area while our prof showed us different places of interest. We went by the Catedral d

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Graffiti the City

Well, like I said “at least as of right now...” The prof turned out to be better once we met with him as a group (just us Aggies this time). It was just that yesterday he (probably without knowing it) made us look and feel bad. But today was different.

Before I go on about what happened in class today, let me start from the beginning. I woke up a little later than I wanted and my roommate took just long enough in the shower for me to not be able to take one before we had to go. But it’s was the first thing done when I got back, and I had taken a really late shower the day before. We had to speed walk it wherever we went though. We only had 40 minutes to get to school and that’s about how long it takes...if you really hurry. We flew to the Metro, and I bought a 90 day pass (for 95 Euros I get unlimited use of the city’s transportation services for 90 days...good deal). This was the first time that we weren’t following the whole group on the Metro, so we had to figure out where to go, which one to get on, on our own. Fun times. Learning experience, hehe. We made it to the final stop and walked out up into the middle of this open area called Plaza Cataluña. We had been here the day before, but in this time crunch it looked totally different. We weren’t exactly sure which direction to go. There were cars passing and people walking every which was a busy center. We quickly walked in one direction for a while and I asked someone where this certain street that we were looking for and she pointed behind us, so we high tailed it in that direction. Eventually we found the right street and made our way to arrive just in time.

Our prof, Diego Ferrari, explained our photography project some more and went through the roster and talked to us one on one with the group. He was finding out more about us and what we are trying to do with our major, etc in order to use it towards our project. He also wanted to find out what has interested us about Barcelona since we’ve been here in order to focus the scope of our photography. Dave and I told him about the Visual Studies track that we are in compared to everyonce else that is focusing more on architecture, and he was able to help us figure out how we can sort of incorporate that in as well. When he talked to me and asked me what had intrigued me about Barcelona, I told him that one thing that has really caught my eye is all the graffiti that is around the city. He made some good points that there is good graffiti and bad graffiti and the ones that have more purpose actually add to the urban landscape. So basically I am going to base my photography project on kind of documenting the graffiti and show how it is used in different settings. Something like’s hard to explain. But what was really cool was that when we were talking about it, everyone else thought it was a really neat idea and were jealous that I get to do it. Kind of funny to be jealous that I get to take pictures of graffiti and not really the architecture of the area, but it’s still cool.

We then went out into the immediate areas around the school to begin taking pictures. We spent a good few hours walking around and I took at good 200 pictures. Not surprising, I know. The areas around Barcelona, at least the areas that I have been to so far, are not what people imagine them to be. This is a busy city and there is multiple story housing all around and shops on the bottom and stuff like that. It’s almost like parts of New York City, minus all the skyscrappers. Definately not what I was expecting when I got here, but definately not worth putting down. It is very interesting.

After class, we were starving so some of us went out in search for food. We found this really neat pita place with really good food for about 4 Euros. It definately hit the spot. Then we made our way back to the apartment and I took my much needed shower, downloaded my pictures to the computer, and fell asleep. My roommate took a nap also. Next thing I know, it’s 5 hours later, dark outside and we need to go get groceries before it’s too late. I didn’t want a repeat of yesterday...

So we went to SuperSol and got some food to last the rest of the week for about 5 Euros each. Definately the way to go... It’s 9:30 now and I am going to look through my photos and see which ones I like the most and start organizing them.

I’m not sure what the rest of the night will bring. The night is definately young (not even begun to start) according to the Spaniards, so I am going to see what’s up. I only have Spanish class tomorrow from 12:30-4 tomorrow, so that’s good.

More to come later...

Monday, January 17, 2005

First Day of Classes

For some odd reason I woke up at 6am. Perhaps it’s still because my body is all screwed up still from jet lag. I think by tomorrow I should be better. Hopefully...

Anyway, we got up and got ready for our first day. We took the Metro to get to the school and that was interesting. I bought a one way ticket for 1.15 Euros because I didn’t have enough to buy the 90 day pass for 95 Euros. It’s a lot of money at one time, but it’s for the whole semester and it’s unlimited use of the Metro, so I think I am going to get it before tomorrow.

We finally found the school and it was pretty interesting. We wanedered around until we found where we were supposed to actually be for orientation and waited until it got closer to 11am before we were going to ask what was up.

Our professors passed by and led us into a room with the words Texas A&M on it. For some reason, just those words on a piece of paper on a door felt like home. We went in and they spent some time introducing themselves and talking about the program. Afterward, we had a million questions already and Alba and Michael Newman (an A&M faculty member on sabatical) tried to answer them for us. Then we met up with our Spanish professor and he took us around town to some places to help some of our group get cell phones and stuff. Then he took us to this restaurant (because we were all STARVING) where for 9 Euros we got a 2 course meal with beverage and desert included. It was very good...definately eating there again sometime...

By the time we got finished up there, we were already running a little late for our next class. We got there probably 10 minutes late, but the guy had said that we didn’t miss much and that it was okay. He then continued for what seemed like forever about his photographic work. I really didn’t like it at all. Basically it was pictures of his “artwork” and it was weird. Oh yeah, and the room was really hot, so that didn’t help either. There weren’t enough chairs for all of us (also in that room were the students from Clemson and Monterrey.

After he finished that lecture, we moved to another room because I guess someone else needed the room we were in. He then kind of told us what was going on as far as our assignment. Oh yeah, this was the room where we have access to 2 computers for the whole group. Anyway, somehow he managed to make us (the A&M crowd) feel like a bunch of idiots because we were late. He had said it was okay earlier, but I guess he changed his mind or something. We told him what had happened (that our Spanish prof dropped us off at this ritzy place, which it seemed and that we really couldn’t help it) and he went on about “when he was in London, blah blah blah, he had meetings and he always made them on time.” He said something about punctuality and stuff and we’re not morons, we know what happened and we didn’t mean for it to have been that way. We just got in the country like 2 days before...we’re still trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B. And I really think the other schools have been here at least a few days before us, so they’ve had some more adjustment time.

Anyway, the point is that he made us feel like idiots in front of the other schools. And in the room we were previously located, the lights were off and we were all focused at what he was “teaching.” In this room, the lights were on and we were all in the same place. Also, he went around the room asking who was from what school, etc. Basically, now everyone could see our faces and know that we were from A&M and that we we’re punctual, and were retarded. At least that’s what it felt like to us.

I don’t just wasn’t cool. Not a good first impression and all of us really don’t like him because of that. He might not even know that he did it, but it still wasn’t cool. Our main profs seemed like a neat bunch and I know that we are going to enjoy learning and working with them this semester. This guy...well let’s just say we all had some words about him when we left the building...

After that, we made our way back to the apartment via the Metro. I am definately going to get the 90 day pass or else I am going to go broke spending 1.15 each way. We got back and hung out for a little bit and then my roommate and I went to take a nap. Next thing we knew it was 10pm and we were starving. We went out in search for food only to find everything closed. I thought this place was supposed to start later! I am still trying to figure out what the heck is going on. So we came back and knocked on Amon’s door to see if he knew anything about when places opened or closed because he’s walked around the city more (his girlfriend is living with the other girls in Muntaner...30 min away). He said he didn’t really know, but he gave us some extra groceries he had gotten...a loaf of bread, some ham, and a 2 liter bottle of water. Once we make it to the grocery store tomorrow, we’re going to buy the same stuff and give it to him as a replacement...easier than figuring out how many Euros we owed since he didn’t have the receipt on him.

So my roommate and I went to our room and ate a sandwich and it’s now 12:15am. He just left with some of the other guys to go check out the night life that is going on tonight. I think I am going to call home and tell my parents how they can contact me here and then maybe go get on the internet and check my email. That should be the night. We have class at 9:30am and I want to be able to get there way ahead of time to show my punctuality. ...I really don’t like that guy. At least as of right now...

Sunday, January 16, 2005

End of "First Weekend"

Today I woke up around 2 after sleeping a good 14 hours straight. I would have slept longer, but I realized that it wouldn’t help me in my switching to this time zone if I slept a full day. So I piddled around for a little bit and then Clay and Scott called me from outside (they yelled up at my window, haha). They were hungry and so was I, so I woke up my roommate, we got ready and then went out in search of food.

We found this Chinese food restaurant not too far from our apartment and we went in. It was weird. For some reason talking to Chinese people in Spanish was very odd to me. And it was worse in that we didn’t know how to say anything really. The menu was in Spanish, so ordering Sweet and Sour Chicken was harder than usual. After browsing the menu and getting help from the staff we found what we wanted: Agridulce pollo...Sweet and Sour Chicken. We had also asked “what was good,” and Clay ordered something that she had said. We also ordered fried rice which was extra, and bottled water. The fried rice was definately different, but really good. It wasn’t the dark rice that I was familiar was fried white rice and it had ham, shrimp, egg, onions, and peas. After a little bit, they brought us the main part. The sweet and sour chicken was different. It came all together, not normal with the sauce on the side. And the chicken wasn’t breaded and fried, but just cooked in with the vegetables and sauce. And the sauce wasn’t the sauce I was familiar with. What Clay had ordered turned out to be really good...and the sweet and sour chicken wasn’t too bad...just different.

After we finished they asked if we wanted desert and coffee and we didn’t want to spend any more so we said no thanks. Then they brought us some tangerines, we ate those, paid, and left. It ended up being about 10 Euros each, but we learned how we could eat there for less. Overall, it was a good, close place for Chinese food.

Then we went back to the apartment, met up with some more of the guys, and went out in search of something to do.
One of the guys, Scott L., was really interested in this Irish Pub he had heard about that spoke English and played NFL and...served alcohol of course. So we went the Dubliner. It turned out to be really cool. I mean, it was a dark, gloomy bar, but at least we ran into some other Americans, and some Europeans that spoke English...and of course American football. The guys all had some beers and we talked and what not for a good while. I’m not much of a drinker, so I didn’t really participate in that part of the fun. After that, we went out in search of food and found a place not too far away. Mike and I shared a pizza and some bread and that was that. Afterward, some of the guys wanted to go back to the Dubliner, but Scott S. and I decided we’d rather head back to the apartment. When I got back, I spent some time putting my stuff away and figured out how to use our stove...somewhat. All I know is that I got some water to boil, so that’s all that matters. Now it’s time to settle in some more and then it’s off to bed...I have orientation at 11am and I gotta get up early to shower and figure out how to get to school.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Flight, etc

I spent most of the night packing and got about an hour of sleep. My parents took me to the airport for my flight at 9:35. We hit a lot of morning traffic, so it made it hard to just stay calm on the way there. I checked in, said goodbye to my folks and began a long journey away from home. I mean, I’ve travelled before long distances without my parents, but this time it was much harder to say goodbye without getting sad. This whole trip has been really expensive and they’ve done all that they can in order to make sure that it happened and that I will be alright overseas. It’s been teaching me a lot about the role of a parent and how I want to model my life. I love and admire them so much.

My plane ride from San Antonio to Houston was short, but enjoyable. Since it is such a “short distance,” the plane doesn’t really get that much altitude. So I spent most of my time in wonder of the landscape outside my window. It was a small jet and the seating was laid out to where there was one row against the left side, an aisle, and then two rows on the right. I was lucky enough to be on the left side so I had both an aisle and a window seat. No one was to my right, so I didn’t really get to make conversation with people. I just spent my time gazing out the window. It’s crazy what we have done with the place. So many roads...plots of land...just crazy. And yet, we’re still so very small.

I arrived at the Houston airport, grabbed my luggage and started to find where I was supposed to go for my next flight. I was approached twice by Spanish-speaking people, one asking for help with a pay phone and the other trying to direct me where to go. I responded as best I could and already felt the language barrier change while still in the United States. It was really funny...the lady that was asking for help with the phone kind of understood English and spoke only in Spanish. I was the other way around. It was just cool that we were both speaking two different languages at each other, but still knew what the other was saying.

I spent the next few hours at the terminal where I was supposed to check in later with Air France once the rest of my group arrived. I went and bought and expensive sandwich (airports...), ate it, and then waited around for people to show up. Slowly the rest of the group arrived, Alana (our study abroad adivsor) showed up to see us off, we checked in, and went through security. We then went and exchanged USD for Euros and felt the pain of the conversion rate. After that we had a good 3 hours before our flight was to take off. Some of us played a round of Uno. Then I took a nap on the floor, so I don’t really know what the rest of them did during that time. I woke up when there was about 15 minutes until boarding time. We then boarded the plane and began the LONG ride to Paris. They served us dinner, which was rather good. I had watched a 007 movie before that and after dinner I turned on the laptop and my “seatmates” (Ashley Dias to my left and Mike Refsland to my right) watched two episodes of Scrubs. Then it was time for some bored movie watching on the plane for a little bit. I decided to “go to bed” for a few hours and now I’m up and we have about 2 hours left of flight time before we land in France. It’s been a long ride so far...

We just landed in Paris. It’s 32 degrees outside and very dry (barely breathing causes a cloud to form in front of you). We started to look for where we were supposed to go for our next flight, but it wasn’t listed on any of the screens! We asked some people and got various directions toward a check-in spot. Turns out our flight got cancelled due to bad weather. So instead of having to rush around to get to the plane, we have another 2 hours until our new flight departs. That’s a good and a bad thing. It’s good that we don’t have to rush around in a place we don’t know at ALL...but it’s bad because we are all already jet lagged and very tired. Already fun times in a new land...

Well, I slept all the way from Paris to Barcelona and that was nice. After we landed, we had to wait a while after getting our luggage because Dave Morris’ got lost. He got it all figured out and then we went through customs. For some reason though it was crazy easy to go through. They didn’t even stamp our passports...which is something that I wanted to have done. But we were already running late and we had to see if Alba (our contact) was there to greet us. She was and she gave us our apartment keys and put us on taxis to the apartments.

The taxis ride ended up being about 10 Euros per person, so that wasn’t so bad. We then went into our respective rooms and checked them out. They seemed really nice. Each room has two beds (one full and one twin...neither of them long enough for our legs), a small kitchenette, and a bathroom. My roommate Ryan and I opened up our window and looked around at our view of the street below. We’re on the 2nd floor. We then went and looked at each of our friend’s rooms to see what they were like, even though they were going to basically be the same. My room was different in that we have a “washing machine” instead of a bidee in our bathroom. The washing machine looks very weird and I’m going to have to spend some time trying to figure it out.

I then took a shower and we headed out to find the girl’s apartment. We got very turned around walking across the city and after what seemed like forever, we made it. Only to be disappointed and surprised. Their apartment was really nice. It was crazy. There is no comparison between theirs and ours. Even though it is big enough for 6 people to live in, it was very spacious, had a huge living room, and a large kitchen. They guys were immediately bummed out. We spent some time bashing the study abroad program because we were never shown pictures of the Muntaner apartment (the girl’s), but only of Marti. It was bad. After a while, we went out in search for food. Some people went to a grocery store. Others, like me, went to a nearby panería. I got something that was cooked ham in between French bread. Pretty good, pretty cheap. My group then went back to the girls apartment and turned on the TV for a little bit. Yeah, they have a TV! I fell asleep and meanwhile the people that went to the grocery store, ate their food. After that we all went out in search of an internet café. After much walking, we found one and for .50 Euros, we got half an hour of time. So I got online and said hi to some people and emailed my Dad letting him know that I had made it alright and to spread the news.

Now, I think it’s time for bed soon. It’s been a really long couple of days and my body is wanting some sort of relief. Off to bed I go.